Happy hours in Bali
From slinky bars to warungs with the works, there are cool drinking joints galore in Seminyak and surrounds
SEMINYAK is Bali’s party central but its cocktail crown is by no means welded in place.
Coastal neighbours such as Jimbaran are also competing for the martini crowd with new and ever more groovy hotel and resort bars and clubs. Rock Bar, Ayana, Jimbaran: This five- star clifftop resort, about 10km from Denpasar airport, was opened as the Ritz-carlton in 1996 and rebranded Ayana in 2009. It’s a favourite of the Japanese market but its ocean’s- edge Rock Bar transcends any particular niche and is as popular with visitors as with resort guests.
The open-top bar, perched 14m above the water in a square configuration on two levels and surrounded by suspended terraces, is reached by inclinator car. Queues can be long (resort guests have priority) and the car carries j ust four passengers, so timing is everything. Get there before sunset (I suggest in advance of 5pm) and leave early (return queues can be equally as long).
It is a madly hip spot, with a DJ, tapas plates and good snacks, generously poured mojitos in flavours such as blueberry and, naturally, drinks of all stripes served on the rocks.
Sit on stools at the front bar, on cane lounges built for two on the upper level, on chairs by the low glass walls that wrap around the main cube, or at tables on the ( occasionally sea- splashed) terraces. More: ayanaresort.com. Ku De Ta, Seminyak: Still the must-go j oint for the likes of lychee-tinis or ‘‘ spiked shakes’’ (chocolate and rum; vanilla and bourbon) as the sun goes down. Ku Te Da is a classic beach club featuring a breezy restaurant with food masterminded by NZ executive chef Philip Davenport; it opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but many of the cool crowd go just for early-evening cocktails or late-night drinks.
There are resident mixologists, loungey garden furniture and beachside perches as well as an upstairs bar. It’s a bit Miami, a trifle Ibiza, and all good fun. More: kudeta.net. Wretreat & Spa Bali, Seminyak: This freshly opened Seminyak hotel, from the chic W chain, is home to the buzzing Woo Bar (right by the beach, just along from Potato Head). It’s a pool club by day but, as the sun slips away, think: beanbags, hectic dance floor, the island’s best DJS, extravagant chandeliers, ceiling fans modelled on helicopter propellers and drinks tables shaped and textured like coral formations.
There are three floors of space for ‘‘mixing, mingling and chilling out’’. Try the Shisha & Shawarma menu, a selection of cocktailinspired shisha (flavoured tobacco smoked in a hookah) paired with slow- roasted lamb or chicken shawarma and a sunset cocktail. It’s a look-at-me scene, loud and lively, almost unreasonably hip. More: whotels.com/baliseminyak. Potato Head, Seminyak: Get past the decidedly odd name of this offshoot of Potato Head Jakarta and chill out at this latest addition to the Seminyak beach beat. The switched-on Luxe City Guides call it an ‘‘all-day party palace’’ but on the midweek night of my visit, business is slow and my order for a Campari on the rocks is slightly sniffed at — not groovy enough, perhaps.
The owners have gathered vintage furniture and salvaged architectural fittings from across Indonesia, including the hundreds ( perhaps thousands) of mismatched wooden shutters that coat the venue’s extraordinary snail-like facade.
The fit- out is little short of sensational, from extravagant lighting to retro bar-stools. In true beach-club style, there’s a shapely infinity- edge pool, choice of terrific eating venues, and tons of lounging space. More: ptthead.com. Naughty Nuri’s, Canggu: Herewith a cheeky addition to the list, but one that is most entertaining.
The original Nuri’s is in the hillstation of Ubud, there’s even a branch in Jakarta, but this coastal offshoot on Jalan Batubelig opened last year. It’s basically just an open-fronted warung (a ‘‘food stall or hole-in-the-wall joint’’ say Nuri’s owners) and, in this case, with memorable drinks attached.
The ‘‘naughty’’ tag applies to the ‘ ‘ absolutely brutal’’ martinis, shaken at your table,
The long, lean warung, with a garden courtyard at the rear, is penny-plain, with old, bare tables, benches and rattan chairs; pictures of famous martini hands, from Ernest Hemingway to Winston Churchill, hang on the walls as rather odd gypsy music belts out.
Laze back amid the smoke from pavement braziers and tuck into the house specialty of ‘‘unbelievably wicked pork ribs’’ and charcoal- grilled ‘ ‘ corn porn’’ served suggestively upright in a glass. Open for lunch and dinner seven days, but if you are up for one of those martinis, an evening visit is recommended. More: naughtynurisbali.com. Intercontinental Bali Resort, Jimbaran: The Sunset Bar at this big and beautifully landscaped resort, right on Jimbaran Bay, has been ‘‘revamped, refreshed and relaunched’’. It’s well named, with perfect west-facing views, and there’s a friendly, feet-in-thesand vibe.
The bar sits beachside within a contemporary open-plan Balinese pavilion with thatched roof, set between old trees hung with pretty lanterns. Perch on a rattancovered bar-stool and order giddycoloured cocktails or frozen margaritas and bar food such as wedges, sandwiches and seafood skewers. ‘‘No dress code — ever!’’ is the Sunset Bar’s further lure for thirsty beach bums. More: bali.intercontinental.com. The also- drink list: Cocoon Beach Club at Seminyak (‘‘VIP poolside cabanas’’, margaritas and a Miami vibe) and Nammos Beach Club at the Karma Kandara resort, Uluwatu (reached by inclinator down a soaring cliff; almost like a Greek island transplant, set on a secluded cove, with a bamboo walled pavilion, great seafood and icy drinks). More: cocoon-beach.com; karmakandara.com.
Rock Bar, at the five-star clifftop Ayana resort in Jimbaran, is extremely popular, but visitors can avoid queues by arriving before sunset and leaving early
The Sunset Bar at Intercontinental Bali on Jimbaran Bay